Sunday, November 21, 2010

Li'l Rhody Runaround

It has been far too long since I have posted, so I am going to start now, and try to catch up on race writeups and other posts I've been thinking about, before the end of the year. I'll start with today's race.

(Results) Today was the Li'l Rhody Runaround, an 8-mile trail race in Westerly, RI. I did it last year, but at a comfortable pace because I had the Alden Invite coming up a week later, where I wanted to run a fast mile. This year I was willing to run a little faster. I was planning to wear racing flats, but when I arrived at the race I learned that the woman who has dominated the race for the past few years was out of town, so I opted to wear trainers to be gentler on my calf, with which I've been having issues lately. I tied them a little tighter than usual so that they would feel more like racing flats and provide good traction on the rocky trail.

Everyone was required to wear at least 200 square inches of orange, because it is hunting season, so I went all-out and wore an orange NBB singlet (from last year), orange shorts (with orange tape over the logo) and orange gloves. I was one of the only people out of 300 runners wearing a singlet; most people had long sleeves and many had long pants. But it was about 40 degrees and sunny. If you're cold when it's 40 degrees and sunny, you're not running hard enough! That's what I tell myself.

The gun went off and we ran about 3/4 of a mile down a dirt road before entering the trail. Lots of men passed me during the road portion, and I made sure they didn't have ponytails. Once we got onto the single-track trail, I just held my position. Every so often a man would pass me; probably 10 men passed me over the course of the 6 miles of trail. Occasionally I passed the man ahead of me. The trail was well-marked with pink or yellow arrows, and quite dry. There were many boardwalks, each with "AMC 2001" or a similar year carved into them, and even a covered bridge with benches inside!

My biggest problems were rocks, roots and leaves (pretty typical for a trail race, I know). The trail was absolutely covered with dry leaves, pretty thickly, so often I would slip a bit, like a treadmill action. The roots were good for traction (because I could avoid the leaves), but somehow I found myself stepping on the roots with my toes while my heels were still on the ground, which jerked at my achilles tendons (bad when you are having calf issues already). I did this about five times in the first few miles, and thereafter figured out how to avoid it. The rocks were also good for traction, but it was challenging to figure out the best path over them and tiptoe delicately across them while maintaining a good pace. Sometimes I chose the wrong path over them and went further than necessary, and once I had to leap over a puddle at the last second. But as trail races go, this one was very tame; it was only gently rolling, with something that I would call a "hill" at about the 5 and 6 mile marks.

There were actually some hunters out there, so it was good we were wearing orange. I saw a guy up ahead with an orange vest on, so I assumed he was a race volunteer -- until I saw the long black rifle he was holding! I'm sure it would be difficult to find animals to shoot, when 300 people are running through the woods. Another time, I saw a guy in orange with a camera that had a huge lens on it, so again I thought he must be a race photographer -- but he wasn't taking pictures, so I guess he was just out there taking pictures of the animals.

I was able to work with the men around me; for the first half of the race I was in a long parade of orange men. As the race went on, the short road portions and the hills broke up the parade, and I had to actually look at the arrows marking the course, rather than just following the guy ahead! When we went on the short road portions, I expected to feel better than on the trail, but to my surprise I felt like I was working hard just to stay even, and I was happy when we ducked back into the woods again. (This may have been because it was windy on the road, and not in the woods.)

At about 7 miles we popped out of the woods for the mile-long road run to the finish. Given my negative experience with the road portion in the middle, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt great, and immediately pulled away from the guy who had been right behind me for the past few minutes. I passed two more guys on the road and felt nice and smooth all the way through the finish. They announced my name as I was nearing the end, and even held up a finish tape! Pretty nice for a trail race!

I ran back along the course to find my friend Sarah, and ran to the finish with her, then went on a little more cool down. The post-race refreshments were great, with hot soup, fixings for PB&Js, and cider. They gave some nice prizes, and even a plaque! Sarah placed in her age group, and Mica ran the farthest she has ever run! So we all went home happy.

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